[sic] Magazine

Deerhunter – Microcastle

Last year’s release of ‘Cryptograms’ was an understated gem in many places, yet ignored in other territories. The hypnotic, original take on abstraction warded off many trespassers to a new blend of sounds that perhaps, some hadn’t come across before. Some even dismissed ‘Cryptograms’’ heavy-distortion approach to be a sneaky method of covering up a messy musical technique. ‘Microcastle’ is a triumphant dismissal of those comments, a testimony of the talents that truly hide behind the frame of Bradford Cox and co.

‘Microcastle’ can class itself as something slightly similar to Cox’s solo work under the alias of Atlas Sound, a project that went down better than fellow projects run by some of the remaining Deerhunter members, Lotus Plaza (Lockett Pundt) and Josh Fauver’s Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Cox is emerging as a true talent, and ‘Microcastle’ answers the question as to why.

Whilst all of the moments on the record differ in terms of sparseness of sounds, time-span etc., they’re all very much songs. Not the sort of songs you find yourself humming along to on the train, but all the same, well-written alternative songs. A formula of a muted guitar line shunned into the background my Cox’s (surprisingly) prominent vocals seems to do the trick throughout. When the band seem to digress into familiar abstract games, the following sounds blank the beauty from your memory with some back-to-basics, punk-influenced enthusiasm- the title-track being the ideal example of this.

What seems to have impressed so many of Deerhunter’s fans thus far is the record’s ability to out-do other bands’ “songs”. By moving away from what they were known for doing best, they’re beating bands who are so used to the simplistic song style. ‘Nothing Ever Happened’, with its rapid stance, keeping an impressive groove tight, is outstanding and it comes straight after ‘Activa’s slow-moving take on things – a No Age-esque, high-feedback solo confirms the excellence of the previously-mentioned.

It’s odd how this remarkable change in sound and structure has only done the band favours. Whilst we’re all so used to the soothing sounds that emerged from the second record, this third one shines and shimmers most when it’s out there working hard, turning up the volume and going out there to defy those who could have dismissed the band on the basis of their first two albums. The likes of ‘Saved By Old Times’ and ‘Agoraphobia’ rely on complex guitar lines overlaying each other, with the former sounding most impressive with some dictaphone samples that’d most likely be found somewhere on Why?’s ‘Elephant Eyelash’. And Deerhunter continue to sound like a completely different band throughout. ‘These Hands’ could have passed on The Secret Machines’ ‘Ten Silver Drops’ record, with its atmosphere and its whimsy backing vocals. Another stand-out, ‘Little Kids’ zooms past many other bands that could surely have influenced the song, but somehow the Georgia four-piece hit home the fact that this is their sound, with their name on it, and they’ve clearly mastered it.

And whilst ‘Microcastle’ isn’t the luxurious home of some of the best songs of our time, it very much wets your appetites for things to come. This record was most definitely not a subtle cry for attention and it most definitely was a form of affirming their status as one of the most experimental, dynamic, exciting bands of our time.